Boots & Sabers

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Category: Politics – Texas

Make Wisconsin a destination state

I forgot to post this… here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

Elon Musk made big headlines when he announced that he would move Tesla’s headquarters from California to Texas, but he is actually a bit late to the trend. Over the past decade, over 10,000 companies have fled California for other states with Texas being the number one destination. Joining Tesla in just the last month, tech giants Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have announced that they are moving their headquarters to Texas. There is no reason why Wisconsin could not also be a destination state for businesses. It is a policy choice, and it will take some hard work.

Musk’s comments about his decision were as flamboyant as ever. Calling California “fascist” and “entitled,” he made his announcement with his customary flourish. But underneath the bombast is a calculated business decision to operate in a state that is a better climate for the business and his employees. It is the same business decision being made by thousands of companies.

The effects of coronavirus are enabling and accelerating the movement. When the pandemic forced employees to work from home, many companies and employees found that it worked well for both. Remote working is particularly sustainable in industries like technology and financial services. With employees able to work from anywhere, one of the challenges to moving a headquarters is removed. It is much easier for a business to launch into another state when they do not need to overcome the gravitational pull generated by employee density.

As companies are liberated from needing to worry as much about where employees live, they are free to look to locate in states that offer a better climate for the business and the top leadership. Texas is a destination because of the policy choices made by state leaders for decades. Texas has no personal income tax, no corporate income tax, a lower cost of living, a businessfriendly regulatory climate, world-class universities, and a vibrant, diverse place to live. There is no reason that Wisconsin could not become the Texas of the 2030s, but we will have to start making changes now.

Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature made Wisconsin significantly more attractive to businesses in the last decade. They did so by reducing the regulatory burden and slightly controlling taxes. They did not make the big systemic changes or spending cuts that will be needed to make Wisconsin a prime destination state. In order to become a business magnet, lawmakers will need to lower the cost of living and doing business by do things like eliminating the personal income tax, reducing or eliminating the corporate income tax, lowering fees and taxes across the board, and reducing the regulatory burden.

For comparison, the state of Texas spends about $4,361 per person. The state of Wisconsin spends about $8,785 per person. Local spending is a little closer, but Wisconsin still spends more. Texas spends $5,663 per person while Wisconsin spends $6,169 per person. All told, Wisconsin state and local governments spend $4,930 more per year per person than Texas. That is $19,720 per year in additional taxing and spending for a family of four. Wisconsin cannot reduce the cost of government and, subsequently, the cost of living if it does not reduce government spending.

One wonders where all of that spending is going. Both states have world-class public universities, but Texas state taxpayers spend less than 50% per capita on them. Both states have a good transportation infrastructure, but Wisconsin state taxpayers spend 13.8% more per capita. Wisconsin is spending almost 28% more on K-12 education for marginally better results, but the student demographics are drastically different.

Generally, as one goes through the state budget, Wisconsin spends much more on almost everything than other states. It is difficult to see any additional value for all of that additional spending. “Value” should be the word that dominates the upcoming state budget debate. If taxpayers are going to spend 10%, 25%, or 50% more on something than other states, then state politicians should be able to articulate how taxpayers are getting 10%, 25%, or 50% more value for the dollars spent. If they can’t, then the spending is just being wasted.

The upcoming budget session is another opportunity for Wisconsin policy-makers to make the choices that will determine if Wisconsin will ever be a destination state for businesses and workers. If they choose to keep increasing spending because it is the path of least resistance, then businesses and people will continue to relocate into other states and Wisconsin will miss this historic opportunity when businesses are going to be moving more than ever.

Make Wisconsin a destination state

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I continue to charge the windmill of Wisconsin government’s spending problem. Here’s a part:

Wisconsin cannot reduce the cost of government and, subsequently, the cost of living if it does not reduce government spending.

One wonders where all of that spending is going. Both states have world-class public universities, but Texas state taxpayers spend less than 50% per capita on them. Both states have a good transportation infrastructure, but Wisconsin state taxpayers spend 13.8% more per capita. Wisconsin is spending almost 28% more on K-12 education for marginally better results, but the student demographics are drastically different.

Generally, as one goes through the state budget, Wisconsin spends much more on almost everything than other states. It is difficult to see any additional value for all of that additional spending. “Value” should be the word that dominates the upcoming state budget debate. If taxpayers are going to spend 10%, 25%, or 50% more on something than other states, then state politicians should be able to articulate how taxpayers are getting 10%, 25%, or 50% more value for the dollars spent. If they can’t, then the spending is just being wasted.

The upcoming budget session is another opportunity for Wisconsin policy-makers to make the choices that will determine if Wisconsin will ever be a destination state for businesses and workers. If they choose to keep increasing spending because it is the path of least resistance, then businesses and people will continue to relocate into other states and Wisconsin will miss this historic opportunity when businesses are going to be moving more than ever.

Oracle And HP Move to Texas

The flight from California is accelerating. Let’s just hope that they don’t turn Texas blue in the process.

Tech giant Oracle Corp. said Friday it will move its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Austin, Texas, and let many employees choose their office locations and decide whether to work from home.

The business software maker said it will keep major hubs at its current home in Redwood City, California, and other locations.

‘We believe these moves best position Oracle for growth and provide our personnel with more flexibility about where and how they work,’ the company said in a regulatory filing.

[…]

This month, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, one of the early companies in Silicon Valley, said it will move to the Houston area and build a campus with two five-story buildings by 2022.

‘HPE’s largest U.S. employment hub, Houston is an attractive market to recruit and retain future diverse talent, and is where the company is currently constructing a state-of-the-art new campus,’ the company said in a statement.

[…]

Texas also offers a lower cost of living and no state income tax, both of which may appeal Oracle as well as South Africa-born Musk, 49, who overtook Bill Gates to become the world’s second-wealthiest person last month as Tesla stock reached ever-greater heights.

I would point out that there is nothing stopping Wisconsin from attracting businesses like this. It’s a choice.

Appeals Court Rules Against Judicial Expansion of Mail-In Voting

Excellent.

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected Texas Democrats’ bid to allow all state residents to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the state’s law extending that right only to those over 65 was not unconstitutional age discrimination.

A split three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a lower court’s preliminary ruling that had required the state to expand mail-in voting to all eligible voters.

The Texas case is just one of dozens of court challenges across the country over whether to expand voting rights in light of the pandemic. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has asserted without evidence that voting by mail will result in fraud, although many states have used the practice for decades with no major problems.

Texas law allows voters over age 65, as well as those with certain disabilities, who are ill, absent from their home counties or confined to jail, to vote by mail. In a separate case, the state’s high court ruled in May that the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus was not in itself a valid reason to allow mail-in ballots.

The 5th Circuit’s majority said the state’s law did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on age discrimination because it merely conferred an extra benefit on older residents, rather than limiting the right to vote for younger Texans.

Uncollected Strip Club Fees Defund Rape Crisis Centers

More negative consequences of the unconstitutional stripping of civil rights.

The Texas Sexual Assault Prevention and Crisis Services Program pays for an array of services designed to help crime victims, including rape crisis centers and training for specialized nurse examiners.

But it is funded mainly by a $5-per-patron fee charged to adult businesses, such as strip clubs — shuttered this spring as the government tried to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The uncollected “pole taxes” have drained $5.35 million from the program.

All the stories, all the time

Inmates who work for Texas Correctional Industries typically make garments and other items whose sale contributes revenue to the Department of Criminal Justice. But this spring, in response to a shortage of personal protective equipment, the inmates switched to manufacturing masks, costing the corrections department $3 million in profits.

The Office of Risk Management, the state’s self-insurance agency, says that in recent months it has processed double to triple the typical number of workers’ compensation claims. As of mid-August, the state’s risk managers had received 5,130 claims “potentially related to COVID-19,” spokeswoman Janice McCoy said. Covering the claims could top $6 million.

One Disease. Two States. Different Choices. Different Results.

We are getting to the point when we can compare the effects of different policy reactions to Coronavirus. Let’s take a look, for example, at Texas versus Wisconsin. I still have a lot of family and friends in Texas, so I see a lot of their news too.

The two states responded differently. Here in Wisconsin, we locked down the state and continue to stay locked down. We are ordered to stay at home and any “non-essential” businesses are closed. It is statewide. In Texas, they took a more localized approach. Governor Abbott said, “I am governor of 254 counties in the state of Texas,” he said. “What may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this time for more than two hundred counties that have zero cases of COVID-19.” While the State of Texas imposed some more stringent restrictions on people coming to the state, like mandatory quarantine for people coming into the state from the hot spot areas of New York and Louisiana, the decision to shut down, shelter in place, etc. and the specifics of those orders were left to the individual counties. The result was that counties imposed restrictions as the spread impact their areas and local leaders are accountable to their constituents for the impact of those decisions.

So we have two different policy choices. Wisconsin had a “one size fits all” response that shut down virtually everything. Texas has a more nuanced, localized response that had a few statewide actions, but primarily left it to local policy makers. What are the results?

As of today, Wisconsin has 182 dead out of a population of 5.882 million. That’s a death rate of 0.003094185%.

Texas has 364 dead out of a population of 29 million. That’s a death rate of 0.001255172% .

Despite the fact that Texas has an international border, much more international and national travel, a much larger population of black folks (black folks are being disproportionately impacted by this disease), and shares a border with a hot spot state (Louisiana), Texas has about 40% of the death rate of Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Abbott is already talking about reopening the Texan economy:

“We will focus on restoring lives while protecting livelihoods. We can and we must do this, we can do both. Expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work,” Abbott said. “One things about Texans is they so much enjoy working and I know they want to get back into the work force. But we have to articulate also the strategies about ways we can do this safely.”

Governor Evers is mute on opening the Wisconsin economy.

These policy choices will have an impact far more reaching than just this crisis. Business owners will remember who had their back during the crisis. Wisconsin’s economy has been lagging Texas’ for years. Once this is over, the disparity will widen as businesses continue to open and move to states that support business.

 

Texas Won’t Accept Refugees

In case you missed it Wisconsin is.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott says the state will reject the resettlement of new refugees. Texas will become the first state known to do so under a recent Trump administration order.

In a letter released Friday, Abbott wrote that Texas “has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.” He added that Texas, which typically takes in thousands of refugees each year, has done “more than its share.”

“At this time, the state and non-profit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless-indeed, all Texans,” Abbott said, according to CBS Dallas/Fort Worth.

Texas Amends Constitution to Ban Income Tax

Meanwhile, in Texas

Texas voters on Tuesday approved an amendment to the state’s constitution banning an income tax.

While Texas is already one of seven states that does not have an income tax, the amendment will make it extremely difficult to impose the tax in the future.

“Today’s passage of Prop 4 is a victory for taxpayers across the Lone Star State,” said Republican Governor Greg Abbot. “I am grateful to Rep. Jeff Leach for his bold leadership on this issue, and for the overwhelming majority of Texans who voted to ensure that our great state will always be free of a state income tax.

“This ban on such a disastrous tax will keep our economy prosperous, protect taxpayers, and ensure that Texas remains the best state to live, work, and raise a family,” Abbot continued.

Tell me again why this is impossible in Wisconsin?

Texas Senate Approves Gun Carrying for Week After Disaster

Interesting.

The Texas Senate on Sunday approved a bill that would allow any Texan who can legally own a firearm to be able to carry it either open or concealed for seven days after the state declares a natural disaster, The Dallas Morning News reported.

[…]

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican, said earlier that he doesn’t “want someone to feel like they have to leave their firearms back in an unsecured home for a week or longer, and we all know how looting occurs in storms. Entire neighborhoods are empty and these people can just go shopping, and one of the things they’re looking for is firearms.”

Texas’ carry laws are actually a bit more restrictive than Wisconsin’s and a bit nonsensical, at times. Generally, open carry is not legal in Texas like it is in Wisconsin. Many years ago when Texas passed concealed carry, it was actually a big deal that a CHL holder would get in big trouble for “brandishing” if anyone saw their weapon. It was a goofy restriction that Texas lifted 2016. So now a Texan CHL holder can carry openly or concealed.

What this law would do is say that anyone who can legally own a gun – no felons, etc. – to transport that weapon, concealed or open, for a week after a natural disaster. The rationale is that it would enable people to protect their property and to legally transport their weapons away so that they don’t get stolen. The downside is that police won’t be able to easily tell who can legally carry a weapon or not, but they can’t do that today. The police would have to do what they do anyway… react to behavior instead of just randomly checking people.

Texas Governor Releases School Safety Plan

There’re a lot of good, common sense proposals in here. You can read the whole thing here (44 pages), but here are a few highlights.

Still, the plan won what is perhaps surprising praise from groups and politicians who are often Abbott’s adversaries. State Rep. Chris Turner, the Grand Prairie Democrat who chairs his party’s House caucus, said he and his colleagues “support many of the ideas that Gov. Abbott laid out today.” And Texas Gun Sense Vice President Ed Scruggs said the proposal represents the most movement he’s seen on gun violence issues in Texas in decades.

“We’re happy that the conversation has begun. We basically went 20 years without being able to have this discussion,” Scruggs said. “This type of leadership, even on just a few moderate issues, is important.”

Abbott’s announcement, made at the Dallas school district’s headquarters Wednesday, came one day after students at Santa Fe High School students returned to class for the first time following the deadly shootings.

At the heart of the governor’s proposal is “hardening” schools like Santa Fe as targets, both by guarding them with increased police presence and by persuading more school districts to join existing state programs for arming school staff. Abbott proposed several pages’ worth of revisions to Texas’ School Marshal Program, one of two such systems that combine to arm teachers in more than 170 of Texas’ 1,000-plus school districts.

Schools should not be required to join such programs, Abbott said, but he did propose that the state pay for training for it this summer to ease the burden on individual districts.

[…]

The governor also placed heavy emphasis on “preventing threats in advance,” largely through expanded mental health screening programs and on-campus counseling.

Abbott also proposed expanding a mental health screening program already operated through the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He said he hopes to “eventually” make that program — currently operational in 10 school districts — a statewide system, and said he recommends Texas fund it with $20 million.

The Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral Project, which aims to identify junior high and high school students at risk of committing school violence and intervene before tragedy occurs, has already had 25 students removed from school, 44 placed in alternative schools and 38 sent to a hospital. Abbott had praised that program just hours after the shooting, tweeting that “we want to use it across the state.”

Sheila Jackson Lee Plays the Race Card

One of the most vile people in Washington throws down the race card.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said she thinks the reaction of a passenger who accused United Airlines of giving away her first-class seatto the Democratic lawmaker was race-related.

Jackson Lee released a statement on Twitter after a woman claimed the airline gave away her seat to the congresswoman on her flight from Houston to Washington.

In the statement, posted to Twitter on Tuesday, Jackson Lee said that while she is “disappointed” to have to respond to the incident, she believes transparency is important.

Lee’s outrageous behavior has been chronicled for decades. But it’s okay… she’s a liberal.

Campus Carry One Year Later

Well, whodathunk? (Hint: me)

One year since campus carry was adopted at public universities in Texas, authorities in the state claim the law has not impacted campuses in any significant way.

“We have had no incidents since the law passed or since the law went into effect of criminal acts by license-to-carry holders,” Ed Reynolds, Chief of the University of North Texas Police Department, told the Denton Record-Chronicle.

“We have had cases that involved weapons on campus, but the individuals that were carrying were not license-to-carry holders,” Reynolds told the paper.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law — which allows concealed handguns in college classrooms, buildings and dorms — in 2015. But the law, which took effect in August 2016, allows each public university to create its own implementation process and policy.

At UNT, one of Texas’s largest universities, individuals are prohibited from carrying concealed handguns within several areas on campus, like places of religious worship or locations that hold events with at least 200 people, according to the newspaper. They are also banned from medical facilities and sporting events. The university requires that carriers have their license present at all times.

Reynolds told the paper he has heard “very little concerns or complaints” since the law took effect, and Texas Woman’s University Police Chief Samuel Garrison also said there has been no significant change on that campus.

 

School Vouchers Face Conservative Opposition in Texas

Here’s an interesting ideological and cultural split.

Texas is one of just seven states with Republican-controlled Legislatures and governorships that have stonewalled private school choice — and many others are small and rural, such as North Dakota and Wyoming.

Leaders of the school choice movement are stumped by the rebuff since Texas usually leads the nation in driving the conservative agenda. They have vowed to spend money and recruit primary challengers to defeat anti-school choice legislators.

“Texas is hailed to be this conservative, deep red state but you look across the country where we have school choice programs and it’s places like Indiana and Ohio and Wisconsin,” said Randan Steinhauser, co-founder of the pro-school choice group Texans for Education Opportunity. “It’s really frustrating.”

Steinhauser worked in Washington for Betsy DeVos, the outspoken school choice advocate who is now Trump’s education secretary. She thought she could advance the cause after returning to her native state four years ago: “I was kind of naive thinking, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll get it done, no problem,'” Steinhauser said. “I was shocked.”

The issue lays bare the ideological split between a high-profile tier of conservative activists and more traditional Republicans seeking to safeguard heartland values.

Republicans from rural districts are worried about the dwindling of many small towns, and fearful of undermining public schools that are top employers and the social and cultural lifeblood of community life. On school choice votes, they join forces with Democrats supporting public teachers unions.

Another strong bastion against school vouchers in Texas is the large homeschooling community. Many of them are opposed to vouchers for fear of government imposing onerous requirements on homeschooling.

Texas Governor Recovering From Severe Burns

Tough dude.

Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office found itself dealing with a traumatic and wholly unexpected situation.

The governor, who was on vacation with his family in Jackson Hole, Wyo., was on his way to St. John’s Hospital. He had been accidentally scalded with hot water and had extensive second- and third-degree burns on both legs below the knees and both feet.

Matt Hirsch, the governor’s communications director, began preparing a statement about the injury and how it might require the governor to curtail his schedule for the next couple of weeks, including, perhaps, skipping the Republican National Convention, which will get underway next Monday in Cleveland.

But as he was circulating a draft, the awful events began unfolding in Dallas.

Hirsch scrapped the statement.

“We didn’t want to distract from what was happening in Dallas,” he said. “We still don’t want to.”

A&M Improves Diversity Without Affirmative Action

This is interesting.

The Texas Tribunereports that Texas A&M University has seen a 114 percent increase in black and Hispanic student enrollment since 2003 — effectively more than doubling its minority student population — despite the fact that it refuses to employ affirmative action. In comparison, black and Hispanic enrollment has only grown by 45 percent over the same time period at UT Austin, which proudly uses affirmative action.

What’s Texas A&M’s secret? Campus officials told the Tribune it’s because they use the state’s controversial Top 10 Percent Rule:

Texas’ Top 10 Percent Rule … promises automatic admission into public Texas universities for students who rank near the top of their high school’s graduating class. The rule ignores the SAT and other factors, which on average benefit white and Asian students, and was meant to ensure that a certain number of students from the state’s poorer, lower-performing schools can also get into a top public college.

With the rule in place, then-President Robert Gates figured A&M could achieve more diversity without changing other admissions policies.

“Every student who is at A&M must know … that he or she and all students here have been admitted on personal merit,” Gates said at the time.

On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the 10 Percent Rule. Imagine that your kid is brilliant so you send him or her to the best high school you can. In a school of other exceptional kids, your kid is in the 11th percentile. He or she is still brighter that 99% of the kids at a lot of other schools, but since he or she is in the 11th percentile at this school, the 10 Percent Rule doesn’t apply. Meanwhile, a lot of slots at some of the better schools are being filled up by kids who are in the top 10% of crappy high schools. Many of those kids don’t graduate because they lack the skills, but they took a slot nonetheless.

I don’t think I would like to see a similar rule passed in Wisconsin, but the consequences – both negative and positive – are instructive.

Austin Locks Out Uber and Lyft

Hmmm… lefty politicians putting up high barriers to entry for new businesses in order to protect incumbent businesses who give them money. Shocking.

Today voters in Austin went to the polls to weigh in on Proposition 1, an attempt to overturn a bill requiring mandatory fingerprint-based criminal background checks for new Uber and Lyft drivers in the city.

The results are in, and with 56 percent of total voters voting against Prop 1, the proposition failed to pass. This means that the bill requiring fingerprint-based background checks will proceed, with new drivers needing to pass the check before being able to drive.

In response to the news, Uber and Lyft have announced that they will be shutting down operations in the city — at least temporarily.

Campus Carry Coming in Texas

Good for A&M.

The Texas A&M University System proposed rules Wednesday that would allow students, employees and others with handgun licenses to carry concealed weapons into classrooms, residence halls and other facilities, with some exceptions, starting Aug. 1, when a contentious state law takes effect.

“No rule proposed by any Texas A&M System member prohibits a licensed holder from carrying a concealed handgun in classrooms or residential facilities owned and operated, or leased and operated, by the institution,” says a summary of the proposed rules put out by Texas A&M.

By contrast, the University of Texas at Austin — where the “open carry” law has provoked debate and protests — guns are being banned for the most part in on-campus residence halls, under rules proposed by UT President Gregory L. Fenves.

Dean Resigns Over Advancing Civil Rights

Shucks. He’ll be missed 

A dean at the University of Texas is stepping down over a new state law which will allow concealed handguns to be carried on university campuses.

Frederick Steiner said the policy was not “appropriate” for higher education and “did not make logical sense”.

Texas passed the legislation last year and it goes into effect in August.

[…]

But for Frederick Steiner, dean of the Texas School of Architecture, guns should not be allowed on university grounds.

“I grew up believing there was an appropriate place for guns and it was not in a place of higher education and higher learning,” he told Fox News.

“I thought I would be responsible for enforcing a law I don’t believe in,” said Mr Steiner, who has been at the school since 2001. He says he plans to return to the University of Pennsylvania, but not until the law is passed in August.

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